What is Family Therapy ?

In family therapy (sometimes called systemic therapy), therapists may work with the whole family or individuals within the family to deal with difficulties that are affecting family life.

Family therapy helps family members to explore difficult emotions and thoughts, to share and understand each other’s viewpoints, experiences and needs, and then to build on what’s good and make any changes in their relationships or lives in order to move forward.

It’s not only for whole families. Therapists may work with couples, adults or children individually or in small family groups, and also liaise with other professionals and agencies.

It can help if…

Family therapy can be helpful in dealing with any problems that arise within a family setting. So these include: relationship problems, family breakups or illness, bereavement, problems at school or college, mental health issues, parenting issues, domestic violence, behavioural problems, self-harm, drug and alcohol misuse, bulimia, anorexia, depression, enuresis or encopresis (bed-wetting or soiling), ADHD, issues around ageing and around adoption and fostering.

What happens?

Sessions are usually between an hour and 90 minutes long. What happens in a session depends on the age of the individuals, their needs and preferences. Sometimes family members will see the therapist individually before meeting together as a family group. Therapists and/or colleagues observe how family members interact together (sometimes using a one-way mirror), can point out patterns of ‘bad and good’ behaviour, and use techniques like role-play to explore issues. Often families are given ‘homework’ to try between sessions.

For more information, see the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice.